American Elephants

Sussex Carol by American Elephant
December 10, 2010, 7:38 pm
Filed under: Music | Tags: , , ,

I love Christmas carols. I love all kinds of Christmas carols — traditional, contemporary, choral, jazz, even country and some rock. I’ve yet to find a rap Christmas song that I can tolerate, and I doubt I ever will, but for the most part my taste in carols is very wide-ranging and eclectic.  But I think my favorites are traditional carols that you don’t hear much anymore, and lesser known renditions of those you do.

The Sussex carol is one such song, and you can’t get much more majestic than this rendition by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with the King’s Singers (famous English singing group), with the full tabernacle orchestra, including bell choir and pipe organ. This concert was broadcast a few years back on PBS, so they may play it again.

Pretty good way to start off the season. Hope you like!

(Update: You know, I still like the version by the Choir of King’s College I played last year better. )

Men and Boys and their Destructive Toys! by The Elephant's Child
December 10, 2010, 6:23 pm
Filed under: Freedom, History, Military, United Kingdom | Tags: , ,

Hew Kennedy has always had an interest in Medieval weapons.  He has a collection of armor and all sorts of swords and shields and guns, but he had a hankering to experiment with bigger things.  Here is his trebuchet, a medieval siege weapon once used to fling dead horses over castle walls.

It reminds me of a delightful book from way back in 1991:  Catapult: Harry and I Build a Siege Weapon.  Great stocking stuffer!  From the blurb on the back:

A grapefruit sized piece of two-billion-year-old Red Creek Quartzite and an annoying fracas with an employee at the Salt Lake City airport spawn an idea in a dark corner of Jim Paul’s mind:  he will build a catapult and shoot stones into the ocean.  His friend Harry reluctantly agrees to help — provided they can raise enough  money for the project.  With a $500 grant for “conceptual reconstruction” from a broadminded arts institution they are off and running — driven by the irresistible attraction of destructive power to the junkyards and lumberyards of Northern California…and back through the minor epochs of Jim Paul’s childhood…and two thousand years of war.

It’s a weird book, but lovable.  A wonderful memoir.  Highly recommended. The men and boys in your life would love it.

We Are Manufacturing More Goods, But With Less People. by The Elephant's Child

According to a new Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll, Americans no longer believe that the American economy is Number One.  In the global race for jobs and prosperity, the U.S. is number 2, and likely to remain there.  Only 20 percent of Americans said that the U.S. economy is the world’s strongest.  Nearly half  (47%) thought China was, instead. And 11 percent picked Japan.  The U.S. gross domestic product remains more than two and a half times bigger than China’s.   On a per capita basis, the advantage is nearly 11-to-1.

With the U.S. economy is the doldrums, and our continued borrowings from China, it is perhaps not surprising.  But according to the survey the public has a lot of anxiety about globalization and global trade, and not a lot of understanding of expanding trade:

Fifty-two percent agreed that “international trade has been bad for the U.S. economy because imports from abroad have reduced demand for American-made goods, cost jobs here at home, and produced potentially unsafe products,”while 43 percent said that trade has “been good for the economy because demand for U.S. products abroad has resulted in economic growth and jobs for Americans here at home and provided more choice for consumers.

The National Association of Manufacturers is the leading manufacturing association, representing manufacturers in every industrial sector in all 50 states.  They list the basic facts about Manufacturing in the United States:

— The United States is the world’s largest manufacturing economy, producing 21 percent of global manufactured products.  Japan is second at 13 percent, and China is third at 12 percent.

— U.S. manufacturing produces $1.6 trillion of value each year, or 11 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).

— Manufacturing supports an estimated 18.6 million jobs in the U.S. — about one of every six private sector jobs.  Nearly 12 million Americans (or 10 percent of the workforce) are employed directly in manufacturing.

— In  2009, the average U.S. manufacturing worker earned $70,666 annually, including pay and benefits.  The average non-manufacturing worker earned $57,993 annually.

— U.S. manufacturers are the most productive workers in the world — twice as productive as workers in the next 10 leading manufacturing economies.

— U.S. manufacturers perform half of all research and development (R&D) in the nation, driving more innovation than any other sector.

The NAM has some pertinent suggestions for Congress and the administration.  A pro-manufacturing policy must first acknowledge that when Congress raises taxes, it makes manufacturers in the U.S. less competitive.  The U.S. now has the second highest corporate tax rate among major industrial nations, trailing only Japan.  Most countries are lowering their tar rates to encourage economic growth.  The U.S. is unique in taxing a company’s global income.  Capital gains, accelerated depreciation and estate taxes are areas where lower taxes strengthen manufacturing.

• Federal regulations that dictate rigid work rules, wages and benefits and introduce conflict into employer-employee relations make manufacturers less competitive. • A permanent and robust research and development tax credit provides incentives and certainty. • Intellectual property must be defended at all levels to maintain competitive strength.• Counterfeit products result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs annually. • Manufacturers need more graduates in science, technology, engineering and math, as well as increased employer-sponsored visas. • Regulatory rule-making is a problem, especially the efforts of the EPA and the FTC to establish national economic policy through regulation.

It is heartening that most of the people polled feel that solutions lie in increasing American competitiveness, rather than putting up barriers.  Policies that aim to nurture specific industries would invoke immediate charges that the government was “picking winners and losers.” But economists have a job to do in helping the public to understand how the global economy works.  A majority of those polled believe that international trade has been bad for the economy, and that is just plain wrong.

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